Sonardyne International Ltd, Yateley, UK, provided the latest in-water demonstration of its new Sentinel underwater intruder detection sonar to a specialised audience in Plymouth, England, in early October. The demonstration achieved added significance through being held on the same day that anti-nuclear campaigners exposed the vulnerability of on-shore and floating assets by swimming into the UK's nuclear submarine base on the Clyde.
During the demonstration, Sonardyne showed how the new Sentinel Intruder Detection Sonar (IDS) is able to counter the threat of underwater attacks on ships, harbours, coastal industrial installations and offshore oil platforms.
The Sentinel system was deployed on the seabed in Cawsand Bay, south-west England where the Sonardyne trials vessel Sound Surveyor provided an operating platform and viewing facility for the observers. The area borders the Royal Navy's testing ranges off Plymouth Sound and is busy with cross-channel ferries, bulk carriers and leisure craft. This proved to be a realistic operating environment for the Sonardyne team to demonstrate the performance of Sentinel in detecting, classifying and tracking potential threats as they approached the test platform.
During the day, open and closed circuit divers and surface swimmers tested the capabilities of the system. Sentinel had a 100 per cent success rate in detecting targets at long ranges and in differentiating between divers and surface swimmers and non-threats such as pleasure craft and the occasional large fish.
The demonstration showed that unlike other diver detection systems, Sentinel is a not a hybrid of an existing sonar design. It has been specifically designed to meet the challenge of tracking underwater targets cost-effectively. It combines state-of-the-art sonar technology with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based processing units and automated detection and classification software that has been proved in extensive trials. With a compact sonar head measuring 44 cm tall by 33 cm diameter, the Sentinel sonar array is considerably smaller than alternative systems yet it provides 360 degrees of uninterrupted coverage.
Despite the use of sophisticated surface perimeter protection systems, underwater security has, until now, been acknowledged as the weakest link in the defence of ships and on-shore facilities. Because of this, applications for Sentinel are expected to range from the protection of vessels at anchor or in harbour, underwater perimeter security for sensitive coastal assets, oil and gas facilities and ports and harbours.
The lightweight system was shown to be ideal for expeditionary operation as it is easily transported and rapidly deployed. It can be operated on a stand-alone basis, networked in a multiple head configuration for coverage of large areas or integrated into a more complex total domain awareness solution working in conjunction with radar, cameras and other above water security systems.
Sonardyne will be displaying the Sentinel system and its operational results at a number of forthcoming events. These will include the US Coast Guard Innovation Expo in New Orleans, Coastal Surveillance in Singapore, MAST in Genoa and the US Maritime Security Expo in New York.